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Turner Falls: The Good, the Bad and the Depressing Digression

Turner Falls: The Good, the Bad and the Depressing Digression ~ A Blue Pearl
Turner Falls: The Good, the Bad and the Depressing Digression

Finally made it to a staple of Oklahoma tourism, Turner Falls in Davis, OK. It’s a pretty iconic place in these parts, bringing people from Texas, Oklahoma and beyond to splash around in fast-flowing Honey Creek. Nestled in the green Arbuckle Mountains, the falls can be viewed from a scenic outlook above (free) or on foot (per person charge). There are cabins to rent, souvenir shops and cafes, and even a castle to explore.  The water is pleasantly chilly on a hot spring day, depths variable from easy wading to chest high depending on stature.

It’s an all right place, not completely worth the wait or expense, but thankfully it wasn’t that expensive for just this chick. I’ll start with the bad and work up to the good, that way I’ll have more time to think of good stuff… Pre-apologies, I’m going to end on a depressing note, one that has nothing to do with Turner Falls but that did cause  me to get over my disappointing excursion quite easily. And there may be an epiphany in there somewhere.

Turner Falls: The Bad

I have to preface this by saying if you have kiddos or want a random day trip with your SO or bestie, this place is probably great. I expected to be able to hike a little, expected more than one waterfall or at least a sweaty distance to the big falls and big payoff. Nope. I paid, I parked, I padded about a hundred feet of shady paved sidewalk and there were the falls.

Turner FallsThey really are quite lovely, 77 feet and sparkling. But what the picture doesn’t show are the hordes of humans milling about. Luckily, I suppose, the main falls pool was closed because of high water so there aren’t people in this shot. Also it was a Tuesday, a slow day for tourism.

The other thing the pictures don’t show is what these humans are leaving behind. Empty bottles, beer cans, cigarette butts, wrappers, caps and more and more and more cigarette butts… Take it from a former smoker, it’s not hard to put it out and stick it behind the cellophane and then throw out the whole shebang at once. What, it’s gross to carry around smashed butts? Yes it is. Grosser? An eddy of butts in your swimming hole. There’re kids everywhere and they should know that cigarette butts come from people and do not grow in the ground. Consume responsibly, dickheads.

Another drawback?

The price. It’s $12 per adult, $6 for kids under 12 (free for kids under 6), plus tax. So for me, who spent about two hours in park, it was about $15. Granted, if I wanted to swim it’s cheaper and better than a water park. Probably less pee in the water too.

But I wanted to hike and hiking was not to be had. Before anyone yells at me, sure, there are ways to trek around. Lots of roads, paved and semi-paved, and you could bushwhack the heck out of some trees and make your own way. But this isn’t backcountry, this is a park you have to pay for and should have some decently maintained trails. In my humble opinion…

Turner Falls: The Good

The staff was great, personable and friendly. I bought a ticket a couple of weeks ago and then some massive Oklahoma spring storms rolled in and closed the park for a week. My nonrefundable ticket was accepted with no hassle. I even got to witness some guy have a minor aneurism over the prices of food at the café.

And I (almost) quote:

“I could just go up the road to McDonalds and feed my family for ten bucks rather than get raped at these places!”

And the nice boss lady returned, “You sure can sir, your pass is good for the day, it’ll get you back in the park.”

Dude, after a pause, “Yeah?”

Lady: “Yes sir.”

“Well, it’s just, these places are charging so much… It’s highway… I’m just going to use the bathroom and then I’ll go.”

“Go right ahead, and have a great day!” Turns to me with a smiling grimace I know well since I too work in asshole, I mean, customer service.

At this point, I figure if I can’t use this ticket, I’ll eat the $15 so I don’t make this lady’s day any worse.

Again, if you’ve got kids you want to tire out, this is a great place. The Blue Hole at the park entrance is a mini water park complete with slides and intertubes of various sizes to rent at your leisure. But this is no lazy river you can float; you’ll float, hit bottom, walk a bit, go down a tiny makeshift falls and float a bit more.

Which, now that I write that, sounds delightful.

There were also plenty of couples enjoying the romance before the (sun)burn.

turner falls
I don’t know these people but I captured them having what seems to be pleasurable quiet time. Or maybe too much together-time left them without anything to say. I get that.

There’s also a castle. Built by a scientist dude, Dr. Collins, way back in the 30s, (the 1930s, not the more explainable 1330s…) it stands in ruin as a playground for kids tired of swimming. It’s also a trashcan, but the whole park is apparently a trash can.

turner falls castle turner falls castle turner falls castle turner falls castleThe castle was actually kind of cool, as I have never seen a real castle. Still haven’t I suppose but this one was modeled after medieval ones, complete with tiny doors and itty bitty rooms. The “grounds” went on for a while, with benches and embankments and a random picnic table or two. Then there were these stairs

turner falls castlewhich I thought must lead to a princess in distress but turned out instead to lead to the closest thing to a hike I did all afternoon. I hoofed and huffed and reached a decent payoff:

turner falls And then I went back down, took a couple of pics of the creek where there was a respite from the humans and decided to leave before I got raped by the concession stands. (Or got hungry enough to eat McDonalds.)

Honey Creek
Not exactly natural but at least this shot has no trash or people.

So two things:

  1. Turner Falls is great just not for a solo day tripper looking for a hike. I honestly think I seemed creepy all alone with no bathing suit and a hiking pack. Yes it costs but it’s a better place, in my opinion, to take your kiddos than an amusement park. Just teach them to put litter in its place so it does not become litter. For the love of God!
  2. Speaking of litter. I’m not blaming the park for the trash as much as the useless humans who dropped it. I do feel like the park could hire a janitor or two to keep the place up but for all I know, they have lots of peeps running around trying to keep it clean. But that would be one demoralizing job. as there is just so much of it. The park would lose a few good men to insanity every month. So maybe…fines? Public shaming? Stocks by the big falls for the worst offenders? If someone drops a butt on the ground, they then have to pick up fifty while their own children laughed and pointed?

Those are just a few ideas but something must be done.

And now for the unrelated and severely depressing…

So I’m driving back up I-35, annoyed at the un-fun I just had and anticipating the traffic jam I passed on the way (that’s sure to be worse in what is now 5 o’clock traffic), when a semi in front of me catches my eye. It’s colorful but fuzzy and looks to have a group picture of a soccer team on the back. The words “Never forget!” are huge, along with the unintelligible “Srebrenica” and the date 11.7.95. I think, Bosnian War because of the linguistics/date, and try to get closer so I can see what the heck. I spend the next ten minutes trying to figure out what this truck is all about.

The clues:

The word BOSNA in all caps makes me think I’m right about the war.

“Over 7800 dead!” lingered above the soccer team. I now know it’s not a soccer team but still don’t know what it is referencing.

The date is listed a couple times, which I realize is July 11 not November 7 though this helps me none.

I can’t take a picture (because of the driving) and lose the truck in the middle of said traffic jam, passing it when I’m clear but the side of the truck is no help. It’s baby blue with a waving line of stars and a yellow sort of stripe. I resolve to wiki this when I get home and that is just what I did.

Depressing does not cover it.

Bosna is in fact Bosnia though I still don’t know who the pictured men were. What I do know? The date is referencing the Srebrenica Massacre, the 7800 dead might actually be around 8300, and the truck’s side design is the Bosnian flag. What happened? I don’t want to go into Balkan crossroads, what nationalism and religion meant to identity in the 1980s and 90s or how the fog of war affects humans. Suffice to say, Srebrenica was a makeshift refugee camp “protected” by the UN that was raided on a summer day over twenty years ago by pissed off Serbs.

Let your imagination go to a dark ugly place and you might scratch the surface.

In 1995, I’m around fifteen so I’m not watching the nightly news emphatically and this is before Facebook brought us news, real or fake. But I do remember the Bosnian War. I remember because the Christians were the baddies. I remember because the Muslims were not Arabs, not obvious, not other. I remember because this is when terrorism became the norm.

Over the next decade I studied this time from different perspectives — first in a general historical view of identity and nation-building then, more poignantly, when rape was finally recognized as a war crime. See it wasn’t just that the Serbs killed almost eight thousand men and boys in a single raid, they destroyed just as many females in the aftermath. It took a decade, and hundreds of horrific victim testimonies, for that wrong to be addressed. And it can never be righted.

But it can be forgotten.

I would never forget 9-11, I certainly still cringe at the name McVeigh, but I don’t have a problem squashing the atrocities that did not affect me personally or patriotically. Though the Holocaust is as ingrained as Noah and his boat, I barely remember other genocides: Rwanda, Sudan, Cambodia…and god-help-us so on and so on. I bring this up now, in a post that has only tangential correlation, for a couple of reasons, least of which that I need to get over the “horror” of not finding a new hiking trail.

Srebrenica Massacre Memorial
One section of the wall of names. It’s a semi-circle so this is only a small segment of the dead. (Also this is not my picture but I risk the infringement because there needs to be a visual.) (


We, Americans, humans, whoever, must remember that any race/religion/nationality has the capability of being inhuman and doing the unthinkable. It wasn’t just the Serbians doing the deeds, it was the UN soldiers letting it happen. They looked the other way, for fear of retaliation, for fear of death. They looked away while the world simply watched. Maybe a survival instinct kicked in for the UN soldiers. Perhaps those of us watching just felt helpless, estranged, unable to intervene.

But these things kept happening. These things are happening now. And if the pattern holds, these things will happen again.


This truck in the middle of Oklahoma, USA was there for a purpose. So we would NEVER FORGET. A weird sort of advertising but it worked on at least one person that day. Islamic extremism is another form of advertising, by the way. It is there to forward an agenda: the west is wicked and Islam is here to stay. Maybe if the first strategy worked better the second wouldn’t be used. If we remembered these persecutions and kept them in the forefront of our powerful policies, militants would have less recruiting power, less clockwork orange images to bring young kids into the fold.

So now what?

I’ve said before that I don’t have white guilt; what I have is lazy guilt. I don’t know what one person can do to stop or better something like this. I definitely don’t know what one well-meaning American can do to squish ISIS. Or Boko Haram. Or Putin. But I know enough to know that war doesn’t work yet winning battles often does. I know that prosperous peoples don’t need to foment destruction. And I know that ignoring the problem never makes it go away.

One other thing I know? I will make it to this region and tell someone the message was heard, that tears were shed again. I’ve started planning a trip for next summer that includes Eastern Europe and I’ll try to time it right and do this tour in remembrance. I have a feeling there are all kinds of atrocities to remind myself of besides Crystal Night.

Remember the past to change the future. There’s more than one way to trash this earth, homo sapiens. Be wise, be love and be human. Never forget.


Written by

My name’s Becke and this is my blog about life, travel and making a difference out there. I talk about the stuff we aren't supposed to talk about and about the stuff we all want. Having made a mess of my life (pretty much so far) I decided to turn things around, document a bit for posterity. Because posterity will surely care.

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